Heritage H-535 Review
It is, nowadays, too hard to cut through the mix of guitar builders with vintage-vibe designs. People generally tend to stay safe side of well known brands like Fender and Gibson. As a result of that inclination, many companies produce reminiscents of classic designs that people feel themselves secured. On the one hand, it is great to have many alternatives in the roots of classics from low end products to very high end expensive models while, on the other hand, its getting harder to find the right and best sounding axes. The object of my review is a beautiful guitar made by a company that must be belong to the ones to be trusted, HERITAGE. I’m pretty sure that many of you have heard something about the Heritage Company. But for the unfamiliar, i’ll get a summary from quatation from the Encore Magazine (Jan 2008);
When shoe clerk and whittler Orville Gibson began to handcraft wooden musical instruments in Kalamazoo in the 1890s, he did so with passion and pride for his craft and his community. But over the years, people emerged and factors arose that could have driven guitar manufacturing from the area. And each time, a handful of men stepped forward to make sure Gibson’s heritage stayed right here. Orville, himself, was not a shareholder of the Gibson Mandolin-Guitar Manufacturing Company Ltd. that bore his name. When the company was sold to the Chicago Musical Instrument Company in 1944, it’s likely that only the booming post-World War II economy kept the enterprise from moving to the windy city. But, in 1984, with sales of musical instruments drastically down, Norlin Corporation, which took over operations in 1968, closed the Kalamazoo plant and left behind a core of craftsmen with 500 collective years of guitar-making experience.
A few of those luthiers formed a new company, Heritage Guitar Inc. The appellation is apt. “Heritage is more than our name; it’s who we are,” says Jim Deurloo, a cofounder along with Marv Lamb, J.P. Moats and Bill Paige. “We’ve been building guitars all our lives,” adds Jim, who started at Gibson in 1958 at age 19. Marv was 16 when hired on May 31, 1956, a date he recalls with pride. “We were farmers in Alabama. I came north in October 1955 and worked with my brother and brother-in-law at a bakery. Dad came to the Gibson guard shack where they took applications every day until they hired him, and he got me a job here, too.”
The experince, the legacy and the history of the menagement and all production team impress you before holding the guitar in your hands or even open the case. Oh, Love at the first sight, fellas! There are builders in the Heritage Company when the first PAF humbucker had installed on a Les Paul, you know? Anyway, the object of my review is called H-535 and this semi-hollow guitar is the Heritage version of very well-known Gibson model ES-335 dot. So if you are familiar with a ES-335s, the balance, comfort, neck, feeling and basic sounds are pretty same because of the basic design and construction aspects. But this doesnt mean H-535 is just an ordinary clone of ES-335, Heritage version has much to impress you...
First, the basic specs of H-535;
Body: Flamed Maple top and back, curly maple sides with cream binding
Neck: One piece honduran mahogany
Fingerboard: Rosewood (dark colored, well grained)
Inlays: Mother of pearl dots (not sloppy pearloids)
Tuners: Grover Rotomatics (without locking mechanism)
Bridge: ABR-1 Tune-o-matic
Pickups: Seymour Duncan SethLover (neck and bridge)
Finish: Nitrocellulose laquer
Color: Almond Sunburst
The first moment when you open the case, the guitar impresses you with a great elegance. Very very beautiful instrument this is. And yes, smells great, too :) You may scare to scretch it while touching. The finish job is perfectly done by experienced hands. No visible defects, well bursted, well polished. I focus the nut work, then. The first strategic point to be checked out when evaluating a guitar is the nut job for me, because i believe that if a builder pays attention to the well nut work, he must spread this care to the every cantimeter squire of guitar itself. Anyway, the craft on nut is clearly very well. I assume it is made from natural bone or TusQ (seems harder than cyclovac or grapthech ones) and the details gains high points; smoothly carved slots with proper dept enrich the guitars intonation and tuning stability. Plus i like the string angle after nut more than the ES-335 because ES-335 has sharper string angle, so that strings can be hold by the walls of nut slot which may decrease the tuning stability especially tremolo using.
Another visual beauty, as a humble detail is the pickguard made from ebony. Untill i hold the guitar, i always thought it was made from black plastic but H-535 has polished ebony jewel. Very classy.
I did not measure the thickness of the neck with calipers but it is obvious meaty, chunky neck and so Is it a problem? No, actually. I’m pretty sure some guys with small hands or shredder class players closely familiar to the extremely skinny necks may feel unfomfortable. But play some while and feel natural, after what tone you hear from the guitar. For me, this thick necks are much more better and feels nice if i play solo or voicing chords. I didnt measure the frets, either but i assume they were midium jumbo gauge or something. Not too wide jumbos nor small like vintage Fenders. They may be overleveled #6105s which normally taller in length and narrower in width, i’m not sure. But they work well. Anyway, the second significant aspect about evaluating a guitar is taking care of the fretjob and the fretjob on H-535 is virtually perfect. No buzz, no rattling but well played bends, well intonation, comfortable playing string action. The binding in the style of Gibson looks very classy. Inlays are all made of mother of pearl dots, not cheesy cheapo pearloid.
Tailpiece and the bridge units are chosen from high quality parts that gains virtue to the guitar. As far as i can get, you don’t have to change them to upgrade tonality of your guitar.
Another distinguishing aspect of the H-535 is the entire electronic system, from the jack to the pickups. Generally, i dont like some of the Gibson pickups. And this “dislike” formed some kind of tiny prejudice to the rest. Anyway, the pickups of H-535 are one of my personal favourite PAF clones on regular mass produced (not included custom shop products) humbuckers, Seymour Duncans Seth Lover set. A historically correct Alnico II PAF clones with incredible clarity, perfect balance, emphaized three dimentional overtones and harmonics. Plus, as construction it is truely made from the original PAF components like maple wood spacer, buthrate bobbins, plain enameled #42 AWG wires and absolutely no wax potting. I’ll give you more about those humbuckers soon in spesific topic about Seymour Duncan Seth Lover set. With H-535, those pickups are the ultimate choice. That unpotted condition of humbucker may cause microphonic squeal under hi-gain but this is not big deal. You know, if you are about the play under hi-gain, why are you looking for a semi hollow body guitar designed in the 50s ;) Anyway, i tried this guitar with a Laney, a Fender and a Marshall amp and havent heard any squeal. Plus, guitars pots and caps are pretty good and you dont need to upgrade them. It is very important for this certain guitar type because there is no back control cavity plate and changing pots is a nightmare and not as easy as you may think.
Considering the playing comfort, well, H-535 is not the ultimate champion of the ease of playing. But, when standing there is not a balance problem especially happens with an SG.
And the amplified tones... The first thing i tried to hear when plugged it into my set up is the “woman tone” which is the reason of my symphathy to this kind of semi hollow guitars. If “CREAM” is something more of a food product and “Crossroads” is a tone referance for you too, you’ll love this guitar. Especially when you choose both humbuckers and lower your tone knob of bridge pickup to 6 or 7, then you will find very nice, warm tones. Hearing “Woman Tone” is not a big deal with this guitar according to your amp and settings. Much lower your tone pot and what you will hear is very classy warm jazz tones. Moreover, the main playground of H-535 can be considered blues, jazz, rock, rockabilly, RnB and pop. With its incredible sustain ability, H-535 can turn many shredders from their floyd rosed guitars to itself ;) Who needs H-535 are the Professional guitar players, studio musicians, addicted to the perfect vintage tones, lovers of Cream and John Mayall’s Bluesbreakers era Clapton tones, solo blues players and the ones who wants to sure about the perfection of their guitars. They will find more when they grab a H-535 and play a while.
PS: I thank Olay Andac from Pluton Music (Turkish Heritage Dealer) for sending me that wonderful axe.